Western Australian (WA) employers could be subject to industrial manslaughter laws if a proposed work health and safety Bill passes in state parliament. Under the new legislation, individuals found guilty of industrial manslaughter could face a maximum penalty of 20 years’ imprisonment while body corporates could face a fine up to $10 million, according to the WA Government. The penalty is in line with that already implemented in Queensland. The offence’s inclusion in the new Bill comes as a result of “significant public concern and the recommendations of two reviews”, the government said.
The new laws — which will apply to general and resources industries if passed — will also make it illegal for insurance companies to indemnify entities against monetary penalties imposed under work health and safety laws. “The current legislation is spread across multiple Acts and regulations — this update will bring the resources sector and general industries under the same Act, but with separate regulations,” WA Industrial Relations Minister Bill Johnston said.
The Bill redefines ‘health’ as ‘physical and psychological health’ in a bid to emphasise the importance of considering psychological health in work design and management and to show that risks to psychological health must be considered alongside mental health, the government said. Public consultation on this Bill ended on 26 November and work has begun on the final package to support the Bill, the government said. “The community has high expectations that every worker has the right to come home safely after each shift — having a strong deterrence in this legislation completely accords with these expectations,” Johnston said.
Industrial manslaughter laws have already been implemented under the Australian Capital Territory’s Crimes Act 1900 with maximum penalties of $320,000 and/or 20 years’ imprisonment for an individual and $1.62 million for a corporation, and are also in place in Queensland. Victoria and the Northern Territory (NT) have both passed Bills adding industrial manslaughter to their work health and safety laws; however, the amendments are yet to come into effect. Under the new legislation, corporations charged in the NT could face a maximum penalty of up to $10 million while those in Victoria could be fined up to $16 million. Individuals in both states could be up for life imprisonment.
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